If there is one theme that can describe my life I think it would be “The Pursuit of Happiness.” I’ve made big dreams and chased them. I’ve created grand schemes about what I thought would make me happy and tried to enroll myself and everyone else in them. I’ve made vision boards picturing all the things I believed I needed in my life that would bring me happiness. I dreamed about money and all the things I would buy that would bring me happiness, and now, on my 42nd birthday, I now believe with full certainty that the most important thing, the only thing that brings true happiness, and I mean the deep, steady, peace-in-your-bones-no-matter-what-chaos-is-happening-in-your-life kind of happiness is finding out who you are, who you really are and simply being that no matter what.
That is really all it is. All those external things won’t do it no matter how hard we try. Those things can be fun for certain but they are just the outside entertainment, what brings the true peace is the permission to be ourselves.
As I started to learn this lesson I started to see that we all do it. We all put ourselves in boxes we don’t belong in and don’t even fit in to varying degrees. It’s rampant. We put ourselves in them for a billion different reasons. We put ourselves in boxes to please our parents, our friends, society at large. We put ourselves in boxes because we think it’s the way to earn money, praise, success, salvation and it appears to us that this particular box is going to give it to us. We put ourselves in them because of fear that if we don’t we will be judged or hurt so we’d rather hide inside the box that is currently deemed acceptable to those we are influenced by rather than risk the judgment we fear lies outside of that box.
But the thing is that it simply doesn’t work. I am really beginning to think that we only kid ourselves into thinking that we have a choice. We kid ourselves into thinking that we can just stuff ourselves into boxes that don’t fit us and that everything is going to be fine. It won’t be fine. It’s only the appearance of fine because inside our hearts are screaming to be let out of those ill-fitting boxes and our hearts are persistent and nagging when they don’t get what they want.
As hard as it feels to take your selves out of those boxes, I believe it’s 20 times harder to keep ourselves in them, we just don’t know that truth because we are too afraid of what’s on the other side to get out there and find out. But I look at it this way, when you take yourself out of the box the challenge becomes all about fighting for whatever goals you set for yourself, goals that you have a real shot at achieving because they are in line with who you actually are and all your energy can go towards that, but when you are in the boxes that don’t fit you then all your energy goes towards fighting yourself. Now you tell me how anyone can be happy and successful while fighting themselves and their own nature?
I know all about putting yourself in boxes because I am hugely guilty of this. I didn’t choose to be an artist. In fact I even tried to deny it for years. I didn’t want to be the eccentric one in my family, I didn’t want to bug my friends with being so deep all the time and I most certainly didn’t want to be poor (as most all artists that I ever knew were). I even tried to go to college to become something a little more normal, more guaranteed, something financially safe and socially acceptable. I thought this would bring me happiness but to the contrary all it brought me were some of the most depressing years of my life.
So I realized I had to be me despite the fears. I decided to pare down my material desires knowing that being an artist probably meant not a whole lot of immediate economic return. I began to work tirelessly on accepting the fact that a lot of the people I loved the most might never understand my seemingly non-sequiter choices along the path and I slowly gave up on a traditional life style.
It has been a journey to say the least. I wouldn’t say it’s been an easy one as I had a lot of boxes I needed to take myself out of and a lot of fears to face but it’s been a truthful one, one I am proud of and has lead me to a place where I can honestly say that if I had all the money in the world handed to me tomorrow that I would still want to be doing exactly what I am doing right now. That, to me, is success.
So on my birthday I find myself wanting to inspire others because I see a lot of the people I love the most still trying to shove themselves into boxes they don’t belong in and suffering the consequences. I want to encourage those of you doing that to do whatever it takes to get yourself out of those boxes. To see maybe for the first time, that you are not the problem, the box you are trying to put yourself in is.
I know the first step and often the hardest for most is to even acknowledge that you have put yourself in a box and then to finally figure out who you actually are and what your heart wants. It’s hard sometimes to even hear your own inner voice above the loudness of the world around us, so here’s a little trick one of my amazing teachers gave me years ago that always works.
Ask yourself this: If all the money in the world was given to you today and supporting yourself was not going to ever be a factor again, if everyone in your life loved you unconditionally and you could really just choose whatever you wanted and would receive unconditional love and support from them no matter what, what would you be doing with your life? What would your day to day routine look like? Who would you be spending your time with? What would you be studying? What contribution big or small to society would you be making? What kind of person would you be?
If you have trouble answering those questions then here is another trick. Try to think back to the happiest moment or moments in your life and go deep into the memory of it. What were you doing at that time? Who were you with? What type of person were you being? The answer to those questions will give you amazing insight into what your heart wants because for whatever reason those were the moments when your heart was happy.
Once you have even an inkling of what your heart truly wants I encourage you to give yourself permission to follow that lead, step on that road, bust out of the boxes that are too small to fit it and give yourself that unconditional love you will need in order to keep yourself on the path. It might be a difficult road or it might become the easiest thing you ever did, I don’t know how your story will go but I am now certain that there is a special brand of peace that can only come from allowing your heart to be and have what it wants and that is what I wish for you to experience this year.
For those of you who are already out of your boxes or never put yourselves in them in the first place, you are the heroes that light my way, my inspiration, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Have an amazing New Year everyone! I know I plan to.
Much love to you all,